The Republican Party, most will agree, is at an all-time high, while the Democratic party, most will agree, is at an all-time low. Some have even gone as far to say that the Democratic Party is collapsing, falling apart, or imploding. Is this an accurate assessment or just the wishful thinking of partisan activists? There is ample evidence to show that the Bush administration and Republican congressional leaders have plenty of reason to be worried.
Except for the last decade, Democrats typically were the majority in the American government–the very time America rose from an isolationist afterthought to the world’s only superpower. Republican success on a national level can be traced back to the “southern strategy,” a racist, minority baiting plan to get white southerners to vote Republican because African-Americans were associated with Democrats. By all accounts, it worked well for them, and the strategy continues today as it has morphed into the “gay-baiting strategy,” aimed at the same individuals with the same types of prejudices.
But is this strategy a long-term winner? Many have written about how population growth in “red states” exceeds that of “blue states” and have concluded that this bodes well for the Republican Party. The analysis is superficial, however, because it does not look at why the population is increasing and it assumes “red states” will always remain that way. Take, for instance, Nevada, a red state that is growing rapidly. A large portion of that growth comes from California, one of the bluest states in the country, and as we have witnessed, George Bush won Nevada by only 10,000 votes. Due to the high influx of Californians, had the election been replayed today, Bush may have lost Nevada to John Kerry. Similar trends are occurring in Florida where east-coast liberals are moving there en masse to retire. In Texas, as well as many other western states like Colorado, the majority of the growth is from Latinos and Latino immigrants, the majority of whom vote Democratic.
Compounding the future problems for Republicans is the fact that they are fighting squarely against the things Americans believe in. Large majorities of Americans believe the country is going in the wrong direction, that Bush doesn’t share their priorities, that the war in Iraq wasn’t worth it, that stem-cell research should be pursued, that Democrats have a better plan for Social Security, that Democrats will protect the environment better, and that the President can’t be trusted. Most people can’t think of anything Congress has done except for intruding in the Terri Schiavo case, and almost everyone disapproved of that. By an overwhelming 2-1 margin, Americans do not want Roe v. Wade overturned; yet President Bush has nominated John Roberts for a position as a Supreme Court justice, where he is all but certain to help overturn the case.
These and other issues put Democrats squarely in the mainstream of American values and Republicans at the fringes. Polls taken the day before the 2004 election as well as the day after tell us clearly that the Democrats are already where most Americans are on the issues and also on values. A post-election Zogby poll asked respondents to name the moral values most important to them. Two to one, they named “greed and materialism” and “poverty and economic justice” over “abortion” and “same sex marriage.” Thus, Democrats already represent the aspirations of the majority of Americans and don’t need a “makeover” as many Republican have suggested.
Similarly, there is a disconnect within the Republican Party hierarchy about how to handle its problems. Tom DeLay, the leader of the GOP in Congress, was admonished three times last year by the House Ethics Committee and is under criminal investigation in Texas. Karl Rove, the White House Deputy Chief of Staff, is under criminal investigation for leaking the name of an undercover CIA operative and endangering national security.
Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham is retiring early because he is under criminal investigation for taking bribes. The Republican Party response has been to spin, deny, or make excuses for these criminal acts, which is clearly not what voters want to see out of an honest government.
At the same time, Democrats are at an all-time low and can only go up. John Kerry, while an excellent candidate for liberals, was a mistake on the national stage. He did not connect with southern, conservative Democrats, nor western, libertarian independents. Despite these obvious drawbacks, had 30,000 Ohioans voted differently, John Kerry would be president today.
When will Democrats reassert their political dominance? Given demographics, it is inevitable, but it may take a long time for several reasons. First, Democratic politicians may continue to lose razor thin elections until they proudly and aggressively stand up for what they believe in, regardless of whether or not it may turn off some voters.
Take, for example, an answer Kerry gave during the debates right before the presidential election . A woman asked him what he would do about publicly funded abortions because she did not want her tax money to go to them. Kerry danced around the issue and appeared afraid to directly answer the question. What he should have said is that there is a right to choose in this country, and that a majority of the country does not want 500 billion dollars going to Iraq either. This woman was complaining about a “problem” that is not even .0001% the magnitude of the spending of the people’s money on rebuilding and/or attacking other countries.
Since by a 2-1 margin Americans want to protect the right to choose, he should have jumped all over the extreme partisan question, yet he evaded. The Kerry of the early post-Vietnam period would have slam-dunked that question, yet he had trepidation and the American people do not like that in their politicians. They thought Bush was tough, knew what he believed, and was willing to fight for it and Bush benefited from that question despite being far out of the mainstream on abortion rights.
Second, Democrats can speed up the process of taking back the country through discipline. The old adage is true that if you say something a hundred times, it adds up to something. Consider the repeal of the estate tax, which is nothing more than a giveaway to the rich since you must be a multi-millionaire to even have an “estate” under current law. The President calls it the “death tax.” Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and right-wing talk radio call it the “death tax.” The Washington Times writes about the “death tax.” And before you know it, the New York Times writes about the “death tax,” and since everybody dies, the public starts asking for relief from the “death tax.” Republican repetition of the same talking points may be irritating and simplistic, but it represents a level of discipline that Democrats need if they expect average Americans to hear what they stand for and be able to articulate it in one declarative sentence.
Change is in the air, however, and the Republican Party is enduring one of its last gasps. The Democratic Party has increased its fundraising by 50% since the last non-election year, while Republicans have stagnated. Democrats continue to make up 36% of the population, while the “Republican revolution” has grown in 40 years from 27% of the population to 28% of the population. The days of a Reagan-like electoral romp are history, as Bush, arguably the most popular Republican since Reagan and likely for the next generation, sneaked through with the two closest election victories in history. Despite Republican spin, the Democratic Party is raising more money, represents a plurality of Americans, and is squarely in line with American values. George Bush, the biggest star the Republican Party will have for years to come, is disapproved of by a majority of the country. For a party at an all-time high running against a party at an all-time low with a lackluster candidate, this does not bode well for the future of the Republican Party.
Rights and Freedoms Coalition